“An animal that leads well will capture the judge’s attention,” says Julie Hemp, who has exhibited at Expo over the past decade. Daily animal handling is key, she adds.
Veteran cattle exhibitors share tips on producing a champion
Dairy cattle exhibitors bringing home an award from one of the World Dairy Expo breed shows have every right to feel like they’ve accomplished something special.
Collectively, the more than 2,500 cows, heifers and calves exhibited at Expo each year represent the finest dairy animals on the planet. A win here earns an exhibitor bragging rights for being one of the very best.
Pulling off the feat requires hard work, dedication, knowledge and even a little bit of luck. With all of this in mind, we asked several long-time successful dairy exhibitors to share their thoughts on what it takes to bring home the hardware.
Sweat the details—all of them. "Practice, practice, practice," says Julie Hemp to dairy cattle exhibitors who are looking to step into the winner’s circle at Expo.
Along with breeding registered Ayrshire and Jersey cattle, Julie and her husband, Mike, own and operate M&J Heifer Care, a heifer boarding business in Chebanse, Ill. In a typical year, they’ll work with 12 to 15 customers from throughout the U.S., getting animals of all breeds ready for competitions on the local, state, national and international levels.
Over the past decade, the Hemps have compiled an impressive record of high placements at Expo. They’re especially proud of the Reserve Junior Champion Ayrshire titles they captured in 2008 and again in 2009.
The Hemps start getting ready to show at Expo months ahead of the event. "It all comes down to the hard work you do at home," Hemp says. "You have to stay on top of the feeding program and watch the animal’s weight. You have to monitor their feet and ribs. You have to wash them every day—twice a day as the show gets closer. That will keep their hair nice and long and fluffy, so it’s easier to clip out."
Getting animals used to the show halter months ahead of showing may be the single most important thing an exhibitor can do to increase the odds of having a winning entry, Hemp says. "An animal that leads well will capture the judge’s attention. You can have a great animal and do everything else just right. But if you don’t have full control of the animal when you step into the Showring, it hurts your chances," she says.
"You have to walk each heifer on a show lead daily until you get it down to a T, she adds. "If you work at it, stay at it and keep with it, you’ll succeed."
The animal you pick to go to Expo has to stand out from all the others in your herd, says Christy Ratliff. The right genetics is the best place to start.
Start with a winning animal. Selecting just the right animal is Christy Ratliff’s advice for Showring success at Expo.
"The animal you pick to go to a top show like this one has to stand out from all the others in your herd," Ratliff says. Along with her husband, Ron, she manages Ratliff Jerseys in Garnett, Kan. "If she doesn’t sort herself out, she’s not good enough to come to a show like this."
Part of picking the right animal is attending lots of shows throughout the year to get an up-close and personal look at daughters out of the top bulls within a breed. At shows, Christy and Ron spend a lot of time talking to other breeders about the bulls they’re using in their programs. Then, they pour over stud books for additional production information.
"We try to use bulls from dams with good pedigrees," Ratliff explains. "I want a lot of excellence in the dam—at least in the 90s—and a lot of good milk records. We focus on the pedigrees because Jerseys breed pretty true."
- August 2013